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M Mad
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Last week I did the NCC Highway Safety School on the Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point in my E46 M3.

The chapter did a wonderful job putting on the event. Everything ran well and on time.

The morning sessions had three areas of exercises. My group did the skid pad first. Summit Point has a wet skid pad and we each got about 3-4 minutes on it. The main purpose was to learn about power understeer. That is where you accelerate gently to transfer weight to the rear and the front starts chattering and washing out. The M3 telegraphs this very well. I also went on to working with power oversteer. And the M3 can bring the rear around VERY quickly.

The second set of exercises were braking. You did a "lap" of half the track with 3 basic exercises set up. The first was to accelerate hard and then straight ahead threshold brkaing. The M3 does accelerate hard and brake even harder. Very easy to modulate the brakes on the stock Pilots. The second exercise was braking while turning. They had cones set up on the inside line of a 180 degree corner and you had to enter the lane and then brake. The M3 just stops. No big deal, in fact it was very boring. The third exercise was to brake, turn, brake. They had two gates set up then a cone in the middle of the lane then two more gates. The deal was to accelerate to the gates, and entering the first gate start threshold braking. The instructor would indicate left or right and you would go that side of the center cone then into the last gates. To do this you had to release brake pressure to turn and then back hard on the brakes once you were straight again. You got back in line and did it again. I have no idea how many times we did this, but I was really getting tired of it at the end.

The third set was slaloms. You did a striaght slalom, but unlike autocross the cone spacing was not even. This forced you to look ahead and drive the car rather than getting into a rhythm. Then up through the esses for a little fun, then into the slalom on a curve. Along a big sweeper they had a slalom set up, again uneven spacing. Next came the emergency avoidance. They had some cones set up in the middle of the track then a narrow gate, then another set in the middle. So you had to swerve around the first set, through the second set, then swerve around the third set. One instructor was adament about not going any faster than 30 entering this exercise. Since we did two laps with each instructor, after doing it like he said, I asked him if that was boring enough. The M3 was fine at 40 plus from the beginning and around 50 later as I got used to it. Then into another slalom but with a few offset cones to keep your attention.

After lunch we did another skid pad session and a classroom session. The third session was the full track with some of the exercises from the morning and some new ones. From pit out, there was the entire slalom set up from the morning, except the last slalom had all the cones offset from the line making it very low speed (like bottom of first gear). Then accelerate up the straight to a lane change maneuver, this one was a gate then a center cone then a gate. You just swerved around the center cone at speed. This was also very boring in the M3. Then the turning braking from the morning, but with higher entry speeds. The idea was to vary the exercise. Once would be to try to trail brake and generate some oversteer. Then the next time, accelerate through the corner to generate power understeer. The M3 would NOT bring the rear out in braking. Hot into the corner, turn in, and brake, it just stopped. Even braking into the ABS, it just stopped. I really think it needs a little more tire width in front. The last thing was a striaght ahead threshold braking. Then repeat the lap. For this set, they put an instructor in the car for the fully 50 minutes and you just went around and around doing these exercises. And the instructor would coach you on various things as you needed. And the instructor agreed that I was doing everythng that should provoke oversteer while braking, but it just wouldn't do it. And I use trail braking while autocrossing our M Roadster successfully, so I do know what it is about.

The last thing they did was have a 1 hour open track session for the instructors. The only catch was they had to take students for rides. This was a blast also. I rode in an E36 M3 and an E30 M3. Both were fun. The E36 was faster at the ends of the straights, but not by much. The funny thing I noticed was that on the longest straight the E36 M3 was hitting about 80 - 85 before braking. On the same straight for the afternoon exercise I would hit about 70 -75 at the same point, BUT I was exiting from a very slow slalom rather than at speed off the corner before. And I was not running flat out for the whole length because I didn't want too much speed for the lane change exercise. :)

Unfortunatly I did not make the lottery to do teh driver's school the next day. And this was the only weekend this year that I will not be traveling for their driver's schools. Maybe next year. :thumbup: :bigpimp: :D
 
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